A Short History
Book Reach was launched by a retired primary school teacher, Doreen Johnstone, in early 2013. Over a 50-year career, Doreen taught in schools and managed education programmes in England, Malta, Kenya, Singapore, Nepal and Malaysia, where she now lives. From 2007 – 2010, she worked as an advisor to Nepal’s Ministry of Education and built up a broad network of Nepali education officials and teachers – who now form the ‘backbone’ of Book Reach.
Doreen’s personal links with schools across Asia have put her in a unique position to act as a conduit of books and resources from these schools to rural schools in Nepal. In 2013, Doreen visited Singapore’s Tanglin School, where she had worked in the 1970s and 80s, and asked the chief librarian, Jacqueline Makselon, for support. Permission was duly granted and books from their Infant and Junior libraries began to pile up.
A freight agent was enlisted who could provide some charitable discounts, and in August 2013, the first consignment of books was dispatched to Kathmandu. Subsequent consignments, including books from schools in Kuala Lumpur have been arriving since then.
Once in Kathmandu the books used to be stored in the Department of Education building in Sanothimi, but from 2016 they were transported directly from the airport down to Makwanpur district. From there the books are personally delivered to the beneficiary schools by Doreen or one of her local counterparts. Unlike some projects, which tend to ‘dump’ books at their recipient schools, Book Reach consults with the teachers who will use them, and Doreen runs short training workshops to help them catalogue their books and allocate them to appropriate classes. As most of the teachers already know Doreen, these reunions inevitably bring great joy alongside the books!
In Book Reach’s initial target areas in Hetauda, the project has already established a ‘cluster’ of twenty two schools committed to propagating a reading culture. Meetings, competitions and reading activities are launched by the head-teachers of some of these schools to expand and coordinate their individual libraries.
The project is confident that the example of these ‘model schools’ will help to inspire further initiatives to promote literacy and language teaching in neighbouring schools.
When funding allows, library furniture – including shelving, tables, chairs, carpets and cushions – are made and supplied to the project schools along with their consignments of books.
Doreen requires all head-teachers to sign a short contract with Book Reach, committing them to a set of guiding principles on book maintenance and library management.
Book Reach is formally announcing the position of Country Project Manager. Krishna Gopal Shrestha has been an enormous inspiration and support over the last 4 years. His advice and strength of purpose has guided me through many decisions and plans for the future. Being part of the management team of Adhunik Higher Secondary school, Hetauda, he has been in a position of responsibility and so able to arrange the storage of books and their dispersal to the receiving schools. With the approval of the headmaster, Rishi Ram Pokhrel, he has organized all the meetings in Adhunik school and has led me to widen the circle of schools that have now received books and libraries within the town area. It is true to say that we could not have expanded our work to such an extent without Krishna’s insight and support.